|This one is going to my |
classroom for future reference.
Publication date: January 6, 2015
Source: I received this free ARC from Harper Collins Publishers in exchange for my honest review.
As an educator, one of the most time consuming activities is planning effective lessons. How do teenagers learn best and how can I work that into my classroom? The most energy consuming activity is classroom management. Keeping a class of 25-30 teenagers in place to complete the task at hand is nearly impossible some days. What is up with their behavior issues and (lack of) thought processes???
So, when Harper offered a book about the brain development of teenagers, there was no question I needed to read it. The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults, by neuroscientist Frances E. Jensen, M.D. with Amy Ellis Nutt, is thorough in its approach. The opening chapters are dense with information concerning the development of the human brain from infancy to adulthood. I suppose one could skip these first three chapters, however the information does apply numerous times throughout the book, making it worthwhile. And I learned something...my neurons were connecting and firming up as I sat there! (See, I learned that...learning new things creates neuron pathways, expanding your brain power.)
The remaining chapters discuss issues teenagers face, from everyday considerations to dangers, such as sleep, risky behaviors, drugs and alcohol, stress, technology, gender, sports and concussions (one of my favorite anti-football topics), and consequences. And what did I learn? There is so much, this may be best written as a list of "fun facts," my new favorite way to sum up nonfiction reads!
(Direct quotes are in italics.)
-- Excessive sleep is normal for teens. However, their bodies are hardwired to a pattern, so early rising doesn't always equal early bedtime. Which means they lose sleep when forced to get up early. Science backing the case for later starting hours at schools is what we have here.
-- By age 15, teens have fully capable reasoning abilities. However, unlike adults, teen brains have a higher gauge for reward, which is gained by taking bigger risks. Combine with this the fact that the parts of the teen brain responsible for learning from mistakes are not developed, and you have teens who will repeat reckless behavior for the gratification. Especially if they have "never, or rarely, experienced negative consequences" (107-108).
-- Biologically, drugs and alcohol are more irresistible and more easily addictive to teenagers than to adults. It takes very little to make an addict of a teenager and a longer and harder recovery process as well.
-- Teens are stress factories. Even without internal and external stress factors triggering stress hormones adrenaline and cortisone, teens are naturally stressed due to the presence of the hormone THP in their brains.
-- Studies of obsessive gamers show that their brains' reactions and physical appearance are reminiscent to that of alcohol or drug addiction.
-- Reminiscent of another recent read, Against Football, the section on concussions and teenage brains states: "Over the past few years, scientists have slowly begun to realize that brain damage can result even from non-concussive blows to the head. All it takes is repetitive strikes of moderate intensity. In other words, thousands of kids playing contact sports who have never had...a concussion could be at risk for brain damage...going undetected and undiagnosed and will be likely to cause cognitive impairment later in life" (244). It is believed that there are tens of thousands more kids with concussions than are diagnosed each year, they just don't speak up or don't have the typical symptoms we associate with a concussion. Also, keep in mind, this is speaking of sports in general, not just football. The chapter ends with, "Teenagers are damaging more than just their brains with concussions. They're damaging their futures" (252).
These are just tidbits of most of the topics discussed. From my twelve years in high school classrooms and my own two teenagers, I'd say The Teenage Brain was extremely insightful and helpful in understanding the how's and why's of the situations in which teens find themselves. Not to mention the ways I can be proactive and positively reactive as needed.